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HomeIssue 9Horses perish near Santa Teresa

Horses perish near Santa Teresa

2602 dead horses OKThis text is from the Facebook site of Rohan Smyth and the photo is by Ralph Turner.
The Eastern Arrernte community of Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) is reeling after a shock discovery earlier this week.
Community members drove out to Deep Hole near Judges Head, around 20 km northeast of Santa Teresa on January 20 to check the water the level in the a natural water reservoir.
The party were anticipating the water in Deep Hole to be low as a result of the recent heat wave which has seen average temperatures around the mid-forties for a number of weeks, however nothing could have prepared the group for grisly reality that awaited them.
Not only was Deep Hole completely dry with barely any signs of recent mud, but revealed a horrific mass grave of wild horses stretching for around 100 metres.
The horses are believed to have entered Deep Hole to drink from the reservoir which has not been known to completely dry up.
The family of wild horses, including Orreea (stallions), Marla (mares), and Ambaa-Agooga (foals) are likely to have perished from dehydration accompanied by the overwhelming heat.
Many community members are now deeply concerned about the welfare of the local wild horse population.
A local community member, Ralph Turner commented: “It’s just terrible to know these beautiful animals died this way.”
The community is also concerned with the prospect of the rotting carcasses polluting Deep Hole and other local waterways in the future.
The prospect of any living creatures perishing in this way has left many locals devastated.
All feral animals need to be managed with effective strategies to minimise their impact on the environment and to alleviate any suffering.
This event, along with other recent instances of mass animal deaths, including recent fish deaths in the Riverina, calls the community to wonder what steps are our leaders taking to tackle the effects of climate change in the future and what steps [can] we all take to prevent the suffering of innocent animals across our country.
UPDATE January 24, 11.30pm CST
The Central Land Council, in a media release, warns of more emergency feral animal culls.
The Central Land Council last week culled more than 50 feral horses at Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) after its Aboriginal ranger team found 90 dead and dying brumbies at Apwerte Uyerreme [pronounced POU R – d a YOU – rum] waterhole near the community.
It is also consulting with another remote community about an emergency cull.
Horses and other feral animals are dying of thirst and hunger because many reliable water sources, such as Apwerte Uyerreme, have dried up in the current heatwave and areas overpopulated by feral animals suffer erosion and vegetation loss.
As horse carcasses foul water holes that native animals depend on these, too, die.
The CLC and its constituents are very concerned about both feral and native animals in the current heat wave.
On Monday, CLC staff spoke with residents and traditional owners of another remote community where feral horses, donkeys and camels are dying of thirst.
Around 120 animals there are watering from a trough near the community and are in too poor a condition for mustering and transport.
The CLC received consent to undertake an aerial cull from those it consulted and scheduled an emergency cull for Friday, 25 January.
However, it has since learned that some residents are opposed to this.
It will therefore hold a community meeting today where government animal welfare officers will also be present.
“Before a cull it is important to get the informed consent of the traditional owners of the Aboriginal land trusts we support,” said CLC director David Ross.
“However in emergencies, such as last week in Ltyentye Apurte, we will go ahead without consent if necessary.
“With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them.”
Mr Ross said the CLC is helping traditional owners to prevent them by developing management plans with the four large Indigenous protected areas (IPAs) in its region.
“Aboriginal land trusts, unlike IPAs, lack the resources to develop such plans,” he said.
“That’s why we are pleased that the NT government has committed funds for us to develop ‘Healthy Country’ management plans over the next two years in areas across multiple land tenures, plans that include ranger groups operating in the Tennant Creek, Ti Tree, Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and Ltyentye Apurte regions.”
The plans will allow rangers and traditional owners to keep feral horse, donkey and camel numbers down and allow traditional owners to muster and sell healthy animals where they can find a market.
Next Wednesday, 30 January, the CLC will hold a meeting at Ltyentye Apurte to discuss last week’s cull, how to assist the Santa Teresa Aboriginal Land Trust to dispose of the carcasses and how to avoid mass animal deaths as the climate gets hotter.


  1. “What steps are our leaders taking to tackle the effects of climate change” has nothing to do with this. Making sure that bores are working on a regular basis does!

  2. Really! You went there? Climate Change – my arse!
    Looking after stock is the responsibility of the stock owners, always has been, always will be!
    Waterholes have always gone dry in dry times and always will!
    The management of animals other than wildlife is the total responsibility of those who own the land! Nothing to do with Government!
    If you are running too many animals for the feed and water available, cull them! In hot dry times water supply must be checked every day!
    If they are feral animals on your land it is still up to you to deal with them! If they are on Government land report their presence!
    Government can only react to what it knows.
    Take responsibility for God’s sake. Everything is not up to governments!

  3. “Usually reliable water hole ran dry …”
    Expect more of this. And still we have those among us who deny the glaring reality of global warming.
    The increasing ice melt in Greenland, the loss of ice in the Arctic and the same in Antarctica are all the result of warming weather.
    “It’s just a natural cycle,” cry the denialists. As if that matters. Business as usual is no longer an option. We have to innovate and learn to cope with a changing world.
    And on that subject, how much do all these senseless wars contribute to the hot water we find ourselves in.

  4. We cry, we fill for all those adult humans who succumbed under the heat and the lack of water, but by there own fault because they should have known better.
    But the horrible slow death of those animals is a real tragedy.
    Those noble beasts trusted the human who are supposed to love them and care for them, it is called HUSBANDRY, farming animals, done carefully and well.
    No coroner to give a verdict? No relatives to complain? No-one to blame? No memorial? No, only the concern of pollution in the creek.
    Our value system and standards of ethos and morality should also include how we live with and treat animals.
    As Mahatma Gandhi would say: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

  5. @S teve Brown: If the dead horses were owned stock, then their owner got slack and has to bear full responsibility. No excuses. Suck it up.
    On the other hand, if they were feral brumbies, then those brumbies’ luck just ran out.
    I expect their story is being repeated out there this summer, and across many species, when 38 has become a cool change!
    And as I suggested in an earlier post, this might just be the tip of an iceberg.
    But your comment “Climate Change – my arse!” has me wondering. Are you saying that you do not think the global weather is warming?

  6. These horses are descendants of the first horses who came and opened up Central Australia and so should be looked after. If it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be here.

  7. @ Hal: I’m saying its a land management issue.
    The references to climate change is just weak denial of responsibility, which lies with the landholders. This is nothing new. It occurs again and again in this region and always for the same reason, failure to manage land sustainably and effectively!
    As for the climate change: Bullshit.
    Central Australia’s climate is infinitely variable, going from hot to cold, wet to dry, the only ever certainty being that one year is always different to the next.
    Casting an eye over the records since we began to keep them, it is difficult to discern any kind of pattern, perhaps a vague 50 year cycle.
    That variation means that it could take literally hundreds of years to show a couple of degrees temperature change, if indeed it is there!
    So far, Hal, we are seeing nothing that hasn’t occurred before!
    I suggest we put the doomsayer excuses aside until proven and get on with doing that which we must, no matter what the climate does, competently managing our survival!
    Central Australia can be and always has been a bloody hard dangerous place to live through the summer months. The necessity is to think ahead, regularly check dams and bores, manage animals before it is too late to do so.
    @ Daniel: Yes, I know they are feral horses, which equals a land management issue! Not a climate change fiasco for which “Guberment” is responsible!!

  8. An observation that might put things in perspective: “Even the brumbies are dying in the country south of Alice Springs, and that means things are pretty bad,” said Mr Claude Golder before leaving on Monday’s train to return to Horseshoe Bend.
    “Mr Golder threw some more light on the condition of the cattle country in his area. This cattleman has been for over 35 years in the NT and, although he was not in the cattle industry in the early years he moved over miles of country.
    “In the 1920s he was running the camel train from Alice to Oodnadatta, and can remember one year when the camels were unable to stand up to the drought conditions and many perished in the parched terrain between the two centres.
    “He pointed out that right now there are few camels about to draw comparison but he believes it is just as bad.
    “Mr Golder said that over the past couple of weeks he had seen dead brumbies near the watering places and says things have to be really bad for these hardy horses to die.
    “They can live on practically nothing,” he added (“Even brumbies cannot take it,” Centralian Advocate, January 11, 1952).
    The summer of 1951-2 was hot and very dry in the Centre, and the monsoon failed to materialise in the Top End that season – much as it seems to be happening this season.

  9. @ Steve Brown: “That variation means that it could take literally hundreds of years to show a couple of degrees temperature change.”
    You are absolutely right and the discussion regarding climate change is just that a discussion about containing warming to a couple of degrees.
    You are also right that droughts repeat and the death of horses, camels, kangaroos etc. repeats itself every time it is dry and should not be linked immediately to climate change as the primary cause.
    No one event is evidence of climate change but if events are more frequent and more severe be it droughts, floods or cyclones and the temperature is warming then a connection can be made.
    By all means make your points about the history but calling “bullshit” is not debate.

  10. @ Richard: My comment doesn’t preclude climate change at all. My comment is aimed squarely at those patronising so and sos who sought to use it as an excuse for these animals dying instead of apportioning blame where it should lie!
    Climate change is not an excuse, in this or any other case! The horses died from lack of water!
    Two degrees simply makes no difference one way or another. Animals die from a lack of water in the middle of winter, it simply takes a little longer.
    Otherwise I’m glad you agree with me on the complete lack of evidence to date, of any change in our climate.


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